Universal income experiment in Denver leads to predictable results – less tax $ spent, less homelessness

An experiment to pay people who were homeless in Denver with no limits on how they could spend the money led to twice as many people in stable housing, according to researchers who released their one-year report Tuesday.

More than 800 people were selected to participate in the Denver Basic Income Project while they were living on the streets, in shelters, on friends’ couches or in vehicles. They were separated into three groups. Group A received $1,000 per month for a year. Group B received $6,500 the first month and $500 for the next 11 months. And group C, the control group, received $50 per month.

About 45% of participants in all three groups were living in a house or apartment that they rented or owned by the study’s 10-month check-in point, according to the research. The number of nights spent in shelters among participants in the first and second groups decreased by half. And participants in those two groups reported an increase in full-time work, while the control group reported decreased full-time employment.

The project also saved tax dollars, according to the report. Researchers tallied an estimated $589,214 in savings on public services, including ambulance rides, visits to hospital emergency departments, jail stays and shelter nights.


Mark Donovan, founder and executive director of the Denver Basic Income Project, said his goal is to make the project permanent.

“We believe the first year of the program established a sense of stability for participants, and the second year and beyond is when individuals can experience an even more profound transformation,” he said in an emailed news release. “We aim to persuade policymakers to establish permanent funding streams for programs like ours.”

Of the $9.2 million spent on the program in 2023, $7.1 million went to participants. The rest went to delivery and fund-raising costs.

The average age of participants was 44, with the youngest 18 and the oldest 86. About 34% participants were white, 27% were Black, and 7% were Indigenous or Native American.

Source: What happened after homeless people in Denver got paid with no strings attached

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